Making Every Word Count

This past weekend, with Irwin out of town, I spent most of my time catching up on work while our youngest began to work in earnest on his college essays.  As we both sat working on our computers, I observed my son struggling to capture his thoughts and best articulate them within a maximum word count and I was struck by the precious nature of each word we utter as well as write.

As an active participant in Social Media on Twitter and FaceBook as well as being a blog writer, I understand the significance of accounting for the written word.  But what about the words we speak?  What if they were subjected to a word count as well?  Despite the fact that I have actively adopted and have been working on a slow home way of life inside and out, I have not yet confronted the editing of my spoken-word; a task that I find a bit intimidating.

 

While be limited to 140 characters, I've still racked up over 14,000 tweets

 

 

 

I always try to limit posts to a single typed page

 

Perhaps if we had a word cap on our spoken word, we would take more care with what we said. Maybe we should consider a word allowance similar to the speed limit on a highway, or the calorie count of a diet.   Having a maximum word limit along with a minimum limit would afford us the ability to strike a better balance between excess and deficiency.

 

Should we apply these to our spoken-Word?

 

 

to strike a better daily spoken-word balance

 

 

It would be an immense relief, at least for me, to improve my self-editing of the spoken word.  What I would give to not fall victim to excessive word use while always being assured of using a minimum amount of words to guard against  leaving necessary things unsaid.  It would be like attaining “word nirvana”.

 

 

 

I already know that this is more easily written than said, so I attempt to devise an experiment to see if it is actually possible to monitor and limit the words I use in my daily verbal dialogue.  Although it is physically possible to count the words that leave my mouth; that kind of concentration is going to so drastically alter everything I will say, that just thinking about it is generating angst.

 

A spoken word experiment: More easily written than said

 

Feeling that kind of anxiety is more telling than any experiment I could possibly enact and I immediately know that this level of achievement is much more difficult than I had even imagined. This startling realization clearly illustrates the substantial difference between the written and oral word and how differently we process and deliver each.  

the subject: My mouth

 

 

I have always preached the “five second rule” to my children but, as in several of my preaching categories, I do not do as good a job in practice. I am at a loss and am hoping to wake up tomorrow morning with some startling self-realization.

 

I left this post unfinished last night because honestly, I didn’t know how it should end.  This morning, however, I realize that there is no definitive ending; at least not for the moment.  What I did remember this morning as I put up the coffee, was to be mindful of my spoken word.  So relieved to not be the subject of my own experiment, I felt an unexpected exhilaration, like I had just been granted new empowerment. 

 

the spoken-Word...In print, of course

 

And maybe that is precisely the point.  If we simply acknowledge the supreme responsibility of being the keepers of the spoken word, we are on our way.  And, much like a calorie or speed limit count, if we measure the amount and quality of the words we choose, then maybe, just maybe we have the chance to achieve “word nirvana”; making every word count.

 

The other day our country neighbor and good friend Jeanne stopped by with her delightful dog Zippy for a collaborative dinner and we once again began the discussion of where to eat.  It is not that we have no place to eat, but rather the opposite.  The number of places in and around the house available for sitting and especially eating has become somewhat of a joke amongst our friends over the years.

Charlie's good friend & neighbor, Zippy

 

It is true, we have many places throughout the house, both indoors and out to sit and relax and…to eat.  What can we say? Maybe it’s because we both come from families where food is so important, or maybe it is because in our city apartment, we have no outdoor space, and our formal dining room was eliminated years ago and combined with our living room to make way for a much-needed den.  Whatever the reason, if you are looking for a place to relax or…eat, we have a place for you!

 

dining in the great room under ceiling fans is a great alternative on warm evenings

 

We love spending time in the country and when we are not working on the house, we are usually relaxing and/or entertaining at home.  Irwin loves to cook and set a table so we rarely eat out and because Irwin is a creative genius whose mind is constantly churning out new ideas, it is essential that different venues are available for him to work in.

My favorite way to begin an evening: a pitcher of cocktails

 

Alfresco dining under a tree

 

Our Dining Room: A thanksgiving favorite

  

Most breakfasts are served in the kitchen or on the porch, where the usual fare is either my famous blueberry or banana pancakes or Irwin’s world-renowned breakfast frittata made with whatever is available in the fridge.

 

Our kitchen: open 24/7

  

 

the porch: No  Reservation needed

 

irwin's famous frittata

 

Lunch and dinner can happen almost anywhere but always feel special.

 

dining on our deck is lovely in the afternoon

 

So, whether you are two for dinner or serving twelve, have one eating area or more, little changes can go a long way in making  “at home” dining special.

For example:

We always use an abundance of candles, votives and tea lights.  They add warmth and make everything sparkle and glow.

 

Authentic atmosphere

 

Tea light in vintage cup with fish tank gravel

 

 

light, light and more light

 

When possible, we use cut flowers from our garden; they are easy and inexpensive and always look and smell wonderful.

Fresh garden flowers-always a hit

  

We usually mix and match glassware, dishes and flatware to create interest.

This mix on our patio is fun

  

AND…we primarily use cloth napkins with napkin rings.  I know, nobody wants to spend time ironing napkins- and the truth is, I don’t.  We use lovely cotton and linen napkins that just need to be folded warm from the dryer.

 

Lovely napkin rings a gift from good friend Maybelline Te

 

 

Another feast cooked by non other than Irwin

 

I know these suggestions seem very basic and they are, but with a little imagination, you too will feel like you are dining out…at home.

Capture the Flag...And Memories Too!

Last year, right before Memorial Day, I wrote a post about our flag tradition.  Well, with the Fourth of July practically upon us, I thought it would be a good idea to re-share this lovely tradition with all of you.

Our Annual Flag

As we all know, summer is fleeting.  Even as we are preparing to begin the celebrations of the season, back to school items and early fall fashions are hitting the shelves and windows of our favorite stores.  While this has been going on for quite a long time, it seems that it worsens every year.  Irwin and I always joke about it, saying that it is difficult to find summer items in mid-July because stores are filled with Halloween items and sleds, which by the way, is not very far from the truth.

As more of our goods became imports and delivery times increased, retailers had to make earlier commitments to goods and ….well, you know the rest, we are about two and a half steps away from Christmas in July-literally.

So, while that ephemeral summertime window is open, we should take every opportunity to savor the sweet smells and vivid colors of the season, and do all that we can to capture this season’s memories so that they can be enjoyed throughout this year and for years to come.

colors of the season

 

 

A happy fellow in yellow

 

Coleus Foliage

 

Vivid in Violet

 

Our flag tradition allows us to do just that.  It began three years ago when:

our flag, which we had hung from our porch in the country, was ruined in a storm and Irwin and I were unable to find a good quality replacement in time for our upcoming Fourth of July celebration with friends. In a quest to create last minute, patriotic décor, Irwin grabbed a handful of small, cut out, color copies of a beautiful American flag, which we kept in a jar in the kitchen and placed them in planters all over the porch.  He then hung one flag on one of the posts as well.  Our celebration was a success and even after the holiday ended, and the other paper flags were put away, the flag on the post remained.  Irwin suggested that we leave it up there until the following July 4th, as a tribute to our country and as a reminder of the wonderful celebration we had.”

The flag remained there until the following July 4th, when we took it down, noted the names of the guests from the previous year on the back and placed it, once again, in the glass jar on our kitchen shelf.  We replaced it with a new flag that already had the current year’s guests’ names on it. And the tradition continued.

 

 

our Captured Flags

 

 

This year, we will replace the flag, once again and save the current flag along with its memories for years to come.

 

 

 

Memories in a jar

 

 

While Irwin and I have been trying to capture summertime in a jar since we were little kids by collecting fireflies & caterpillars, our “Capturing of the Flag” is far more humane and longer lasting.

 

So, while you are preparing for your family celebration this weekend, consider including our version of “Capture the Flag” in your festivities.  With best wishes for a happy and safe Fourth of July from our family to yours!

 

 

our newest family members

 

 

The Best Nest

When we awoke yesterday morning and saw what a glorious day it was, Irwin and I were excited to hit the road for some R&R in the country.  But after dallying far too long, and with the expectation of bad weather the following day, we toyed with the idea of blowing off the two-hour drive and just chilling in the city. However, when Irwin and I realized that obligations the following weekend would probably not allow us any retreat time, we grabbed a bag and headed out despite the late hour because the idea of missing two weeks of seasonal transformation in the country was more than either one of us could accept.

We could not wait to get back and see what had transpired over the previous six days and we were not disappointed by the array of changes that welcomed us. 

As we pulled into the driveway a single daffodil that had bloomed by the magnolia greeted us.  Further up the driveway, our fragrantly blooming cherry tree welcomed us right outside the mudroom door.  We found a new guest preparing for residence in a sweet nest located in a burning bush next to the porch while another feathered friend was considering a flat in an architectural trellis.

Daffodil

 

 

Cherry Blossoms

 

New Guest

 

Architectural Trellis
  

But the most profound change was the drastic addition to a nest that seemed complete last week and was in fact last Monday’s Photo of the Day, "Perfect Project".  A once neat nest had been transformed into something much more extravagant and I couldn’t imagine why.

 

the nest last week

 

The nest when we arrived this week
 
 

This morning the explanation was revealed .  Last week's guests had abruptly departed and ownership of the nest had flipped.  The new nesters were a pair of robins who, despite the wet weather, were busy making some additions to suit there own needs and tastes; not so dissimilar from what we do when we want to make our homes our own. Fortunately for the robins, they were left a nest with a solid foundation and good bones to build upon, which made the transition easy.

New Nester

 

The rain continued to fall throughout the afternoon as the robins maintained a low profile, making it difficult for me to capture their DIY project in action, but the lesson that they shared with me was very clear.  A solid foundation is the key to good design.

The latest incarnation of the nest

As we create and personalize our living spaces it is important that they be built on a solid design foundation that can adapt to both our changing needs and tastes as well as the needs and wants of others who may inhabit our nests after we leave.

Who could argue with the simple truth that a little birdie shared with me?

 

 

 

When I reach into what used to be the trick or treat candy stockpile and the only thing I can retrieve is a mini bag of Skittles and a single Starburst fruit chew, I know intuitively that, like it or not, the holiday season is once again upon us.  And while this is a joyful season, filled with friends and celebration, gifts and galas, it is also a time for reflection and renewal, a time to share our good fortune with others who need our help.

Irwin and I love to entertain and over the years, we have developed quite a reputation for hosting wonderful get-togethers, dinners and events.  Whether in the city, the country, the gallery, or an event space, our guests always look forward to seeing what innovative design techniques Irwin utilizes to create the perfect environment for the occasion.

So, when Irwin was invited to participate in the 2nd annual HOLIDAY HOUSE, a Designer Tabletop Show to benefit The Greater New York City Affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, he immediately accepted.  What better way to celebrate the season with friends, family and community, than to share his passion while supporting such a vital cause.

Founded in 1982, Susan G. Komen for the Cure®, is dedicated to education and research about causes, treatment, and the search for a cure for Breast Cancer.  This year alone, about 192,370 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed in American women (American Cancer Society, Cancer Facts and Figures 2009. Atlanta, GA: American Cancer Society, 2009.), and each and one of us knows someone who has been affected by this disease.

Irwin, along with design colleague, Jolie Korek will be offering day and evening interpretations of one of our most cherished national holidays, Independence Day.  Irwin, promising to be true to form, will expand horizons and challenge perceptions while putting a new twist on the traditional red, white and blue celebration.

There will be no shortage of creativity at HOLIDAY HOUSE this year: Irwin and Jolie will be sharing the house with other design notables including Jamie Drake, Charles Pavarini III and Bunny Williams.

So, please mark your calendars, and plan to visit HOLIDAY HOUSE 2009, and share this joyous season with Irwin and the design community.  Become inspired and help to inspire others.

HOLIDAY HOUSE 2009

 

December 2nd-6th

 2 East 63rd Street, between Fifth and Madison Avenues

Admission: $20

Tickets can be purchased at the door or on SmartTix.com

Hours: Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 AM-6:00 PM and Sunday, 11:00 AM-5:00 PM

Children under six, infants, strollers and pets are not allowed in the house

 

Tickets for

GALA TABLETOP PREVIEW PARTY

Tuesday, December 1st 2009

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM

&

CHAMPAGNE & DESSERT SOIREE

Thursday, December 3rd 2009

8:00 PM-11:00 PM

Are Also Available

 

For more information on HOLIDAY HOUSE 2009 and to purchase tickets please visit the website: http://www.holidayhouse2009.com

We look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

Cues & A's

This past weekend, Irwin and I made a briefer than expected jaunt to our much beloved country house.  When we last visited, it was clearly still summer even with the scattered leaves blanketing the driveway.  Our return, although only three weeks later, revealed autumn’s almost complete conquest. 

We arrived late on Friday afternoon and were immediately struck by the transformation both visual and textural.  Armed with my camera and laptop, I eagerly anticipated capturing the grandeur of the changing foliage through images and words.

Sitting by our first fire of the season, in our newly completed DIY Great Room, we enjoyed the surprisingly early change of season, even for Upstate New York.  Looking at our fireplace surround and the contrasting wall color I began to think about how the seasons affect our design aesthetic. Now I know this is not a new concept, but it does bear repeating.

The next morning, I looked at the changing foliage outside the sunroom window and remembered how different it appeared in late May with all the greenery in new bloom and the fresh lilacs on the coffee table.  Now, the bright green had been replaced with the rich golds, amber and russets of fall and on the table, the vestiges of a summer orchid past its prime.  I was just about to run over to the farm store to pick up some beautiful mums to “Fall-ify” the house, and photograph the seasonal change when I received a call from our son back in the city telling us he had a fever. It was a low-grade fever, but a fever nevertheless.

Sunroom in may        

 

            

Sunroom in October

Well, I did what any mother would do.  Fearing a rocketing temperature, I grabbed my bag and we headed home.  No mums, no crunching through the crispy leaves, no photos of pumpkins, or foliage.

As disappointed as I was, it was no reason to forsake this post, or for that matter, the rest of the plans we had for the country.  So, I decided to try to take my cues from nature right here in NYC and headed out, camera in hand to capture the changing season, NYC style.

With chilly morning temperatures and blustery winds, autumn has arrived in NYC despite the fact that the leaves on the trees have not really begun to change.  Just strolling through my neighborhood, I was able to capture the sights and textures of this amazing season, which I am delighted to be able to share with you.

 


 

 

 

  

 

Pumpkins & Peppers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pomegranates & Gourds


 

 

 

 

 

 

Purple & Green Cabbage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mums

 

Corn, Coleus & More

 

       

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Plantings &Pashmina

and of course, trees

So, relax with a warm mug of apple cider and drink in the seasonal colors and textures that surround you.  Bring them into your home via plants or pillows, pumpkins or Pashmina, and take your design cues from nature. 

It is officially Summer!  AND as soon as it stops raining for more than fifteen minutes, we will all be uncovering our grills, reopening our umbrellas and resuming outdoor living. 

So, how can we freshen up both our indoor as well as outdoor spaces without straining our non-existent budget?  Accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.  Maybe it’s because Irwin and I owned an accessories company for fifteen years, or maybe it’s because I am accessories collector by nature, whatever the reason, I LOVE fashion as well as home accessories and I especially like when the two are combined.

Like the “little black dress”, the ultimate chameleon of attire, which can engage a myriad of looks simply by changing the accessories that are worn with it, your home can be “dressed up” or down reflecting either your mood or the season simply by changing the way you accessorize it.

Here is a perfect example of how you can continue to re-invent a simple piece throughout a season.

My sweet vintage plaster duck was once part of a set.  When its "sibling" met an untimely end, Irwin decided to reposition it prominently for this season.  Here is her evolutionary process thus far:

 

 

 Vintage Plaster Duck

 

   
With Flowers
 
With A Pearl Necklace
 
As part of a vignette

 

With a Double Necklace 

 

So, accessorize, accessorize, accessorize.  Fabric, pillows, flowers, even jewelry.  Your home is the new "little black dress".

Personal Style: It’s All About Adaptation


Inspiration can come from almost anywhere.  Last week, at my son’s senior banquet, the acting principal of the school was wearing a standard issue navy blazer, along with a button down shirt, a tie, and…a black kilt.  A nice Jewish boy, the head of a school, wearing a kilt, and I thought, “why not”?  Staking out your own sense of style is not reserved for progressive educators or for that matter, presidents.  It is a must for every individual living in this day and age, when studios manufacture mega-stars and much in our lives is mass-produced.

As we talked, the acting principal explained that he had first worn a kilt during a trip to Scotland and how comfortable he had found it.  So comfortable, in fact, that when he returned to the states, he continued to wear one, whenever he liked and had made a tradition of always wearing one on the first day of school.  This was his first graduation outing in one, and he felt that the blazer and tie helped adapt his look to the occasion.  His sense of self-comfort was so contagious, that by the end of the conversation, I asked where I could purchase a kilt for Irwin.

Now, I don’t think that Irwin is going to wear a kilt anytime soon, nor am I advocating that all men go out and buy kilts, (although it would be interesting to see them holding down their kilts on a windy day), what I am promoting is adapting your personal style to suit your living environment.

While wearing a kilt may be an extreme example of making a personal style statement, everyone can lay claim to his or her own sense of style.  Push boundaries if necessary and even break some “rules”; as Irwin & my son Alec, always remind me, some of the best works of art are the result of painting “outside the lines”.  So, pick up your style brush and make a splash.  Just make sure to adapt your sense of style, stylishly.

And for those of you, who are interesting in exploring the world of kilts, there is a company in Seattle that offers a wide variety of kilts for every occasion. http://www.utilikilts.com

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